Learning for Empathy: A Teacher Exchange and Support Project
UNESCO’s Learning for Empathy: A Teacher Exchange and Support Project (2019–2022) was designed and implemented, with the support of the Government of Japan, in cooperation with education partners in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Japan. The project aimed at supporting secondary-level general education schools and madrassahs in their efforts to make teaching and learning more inclusive, motivating and empowering for not only students, but also teachers themselves.
Because Asia and the Pacific is a culturally diverse region, UNESCO promotes Learning to Live Together and Global Citizenship to cultivate a culture of peace and respect for all diversity. Diversity is an asset for social, cultural and economic development of the region. However, we are aware that, without mutual respect for diversity and differences, it would also divide our societies. There is growing demand for collaboration to address the root causes of this division, which is based on factors like poverty, gender, disability, language, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, culture, origin, etc. The project contributed to creating a platform of regional collaboration in this domain for the education professionals.
Schools are also part of this dynamics of diversity. Schools must be a good, safe and responsible space for engaging intercultural and interfaith dialogue and embracing diversity among all members. Such safe and inclusive environment is crucial for learner’s healthy development so that he/she actively contributes to building a just, peaceful and inclusive society where no one is left behind. Focusing on the concept of empathy – empathy with People, empathy with the Planet, the project looked into the reality of diversity each school and madrassah has been facing, and discussed how to create a learning environment conducive to a holistic development of all learners, in cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural dimensions.
The project’s aims were two-fold. Firstly, its immediate impact was expected through directly supporting individual schools and madrassahs in their efforts to increase quality and relevance of learning. Secondly, a longer-term impact was sought through collaborating with policy makers to revisit and reorient the country’s education policy and practice for equipping learners with knowledge, awareness and action competencies, as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.7.
The project valued the creativity and inspiration of school leaders and teachers to design and implement learning activities nurturing empathy in their students. Teachers were invited to training and other learning opportunities for their own development, and were also encouraged to put their ideas into practice in their own school and community. This brochure gives some highlights of these activities.